No question about Horse of the Year, but a few minor Eclipse debates remain

November 5th, 2017

Gun Runner's scintillating performance in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) Saturday night was worthy of a Horse of the Year, which he will undoubtedly be voted when ballots are dispersed to the electorate next month.

Lasting the entire 1 1/4 miles, a distance he was zero-for-three at going into the Classic, after setting a hot pace and on the inside part of the track, which had not been the right style or place to be at Del Mar for much of the weekend, simply stamps him as horse of genuine quality.

This will be the fourth time a Steve Asmussen-trained horse will have won the gold Eclipse Award following his three-bagger with Curlin (2007-08) and Rachel Alexandra (2009). Oh, and Gun Runner will also win champion older dirt male, too.

As pleasurable as it was to see Gun Runner's performance, it was also disappointing to see Arrogate's career come to an ignominious end. His four-race tour de force from the Travers (G1) through the Dubai World Cup (G1), two of which were victories over Gun Runner, marked him as a potential modern legend in the making.

Unfortunately, the colt was never quite right after returning from Dubai and failed to display his prior brilliance in his final three starts. As memorable as that World Cup was, I had mixed feelings about the possibility of him going after his Pegasus World Cup victory. The season's narrative, particularly what happened Saturday, might have been vastly different if he had not gone.

As far as other Eclipse Award implications from the weekend's action, Abel Tasman clinched three-year-old filly honors with impressive close in the Distaff against Forever Unbridled, who nailed the older dirt female title with just three wins in as many starts on the year.

World Approval's victory in the Mile (G1), a rare one for a favorite over the past two days, combined with Beach Patrol's brave defeat in the Turf (G1), will give trainer Mark Casse a champion turf male to stare at in the mornings.

While some might be inclined to give Filly & Mare Turf (G1) winner Wuheida a look as turf female champion, Lady Eli is sure to win her (some say overdue) first championship as a sort of a career achievement honor. Looking at the cuts she sustained in her run Saturday's, it's hard to think a majority of the electorate won't give her the benefit of the doubt for running the worst race of her career.

Roy H clinched male sprinter honors with his victory in the TwinSpires Sprint (G1), while the female sprinter division is a complete muddle after horses whose starting prices were 66-1, 18-1, and 20-1 finished in the top three of the Filly & Mare Sprint (G1). If that was not more evidence that the decision to create this divisional championship in 2007 was arguably unnecessary, I don't know what is.

Given fields of 10 and seven have competed in the last two Sprints, perhaps it's time to consider consolidating it and the Filly & Mare Sprint. From 1984-2006, fillies won the Sprint three times and finished second seven times. The best gals can more than hold their own against the boys in that kind of competition.

The two-year-old divisions deserve a more in-depth look that I'll address later in the week on There will be some debate between an unlucky Bolt d'Oro and Good Magic for the male award, while Rushing Fall and Caledonia Road were both dominating winners of their respective Breeders' Cup filly races this weekend.

Racing's other flat division, three-year-old male, was already decided prior to this weekend. West Coast fared well in the Classic, finishing third in his first try against older horses, and will be an exciting prospect for the Classic at Churchill Downs next year.

(Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos)